Unreal Movie Review: Attack the Block

Of all the genre films out there, alien invasion seems to be a concept that’s almost been done to death at this point in time.

We’ve seen extra terrestrials of every shape and size laying siege to earth and only able to be stopped by a global military operation led by some supersoldier or brilliant scientist or some combination of the two.

Attack the Block does something that’s miraculous on three counts. It makes the invasion genre fresh, it makes it funny, and better still, it does both of these things on a budget.

Here aliens aren’t blowing up national monuments or vacuuming up humans into the sky, rather they’re crash landing in East London, and blazing a quiet trail of carnage that the vast majority of citizens can’t even trace back to them due to their propensity to lurk in the shadows.

Alien disco rave death party.

What makes Attack the Block unique however is not only the aliens, but the heroic leads. No grizzled soliders here, only a rowdy pack of boys who start out the film as de facto villains. As demonstrated by recent riots, London’s youth population is in a bit of a sorry state, and the average age of those committing street crime is younger and younger.

The film opens with a young woman getting accosted by a gang of juvenile hooligans lead by the fearsome fifteen year old Moses (John Boyega). They’re miscreants of the highest order, but their merry band is forced into a greater calling as they become their neighborhood’s only defense against invaders rocketing down from the sky.

It’s interesting to see how the filmmakers handled their relatively tiny budget. Rather than spend hundreds of man and machine hours crafted dodgy looking fleshed-out CGI aliens, they’ve gone with a minimalist approach. The “gorilla bear” creatures, as they’re affectionately known, are mere galloping shadows. Their entire shape is pitch black with protruding spikes of fur, and the only thing visible on them are their sharp, glowing teeth. Despite incredible simplicity, the uniquely designed creatures are memorable in the canon of alien attackers and look far different from most anything we’ve seen from the genre so far.

I sincerely hope he got a haircut after this.

It’s easy to see the influence of Edgar Wright in director Joe Cornish’s work here. He had bit parts in both Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, and his love for Wright’s quick cut style and clever, snappy lines pervades the film and makes it flow easily from start to finish. He even managed to snag Nick Frost for a supporting part.

The core gang of hooligan account for the film’s best dramatic and comedic moments. They’re funny throughout, but get serious when they need to be, as the film sometimes works as a commentary about race, class and other social issues facing the area. Moses’s transformation in particular takes him from hardened street thug to vulnerable kid to action hero all in the span of ninety minutes, and his moment of glory in the film’s climax makes you want to stand up and applaud. His supporting cast (Alex Esmail, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway) help in his rise to full-fledged hero-dom, and Cornish makes sure you know that no one in the cast is safe. Just because we’re working with children here, that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to make it out in one piece. And I do mean that literally.

Attack the Block is a slick sci-fi action comedy in a way that the genre has rarely seen. A unique setting and cast bring new life to the traditional story of alien invasion, and its originality and execution makes it one of the best films of the year to date.

4.5 out of 5 stars


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  1. I caught this a while ago when it was released here in the UK and was very pleasantly surprised. Hadn’t expected much and ended up getting one of the most entertaining films of the year. “Gorilla wolf motherfuckers, yeah!”

  2. I liked it although it was a little tough for me to catch all the slang they use. One of my favorite lines was:”I wish I had just stayed home and played FIFA”

    You’d never hear that in an american movie.

  3. I think I made a mistake of watching this just a few days after see the recent London riots unfold. Because of that it was really difficult for me to look at the hoodlums as anything other than low life shit bags like the ones recently seen victimizing innocent people in London.
    The only character I could sort of identify with was the nurse who got mugged in the intro. Everyone else in the movie just annoyed the hell out of me. As a result I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t even finish watching it, skipped the last 30 minutes.
    I have heard nothing but good things about the flick but I didn’t enjoy it one bit. Seems like everyone else has positive things to say about it here as well so maybe it was just bad timing for me.

  4. This movie was awful. It wasn’t funny or scary. The lead characters had no heart, except for Moses at the end. This was not what I’ve come to expect from British films of late. The ending was terrible as well.

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